CityPress - - News - THEMBALETHU MTSHALI and SIZWE SAMA YENDE news@city­press.co.za

he Hawks are in­ves­ti­gat­ing at least 140 cases of chil­dren that were al­legedly snatched from their par­ents on the pre­text that the par­ents, who are poor, are drug users who pose a dan­ger to their chil­dren.

An al­leged “child traf­fick­ing ring” is op­er­at­ing in the town of Springs on Gaut­eng’s East Rand.

Over the past two years, Henry Harber – who runs a char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tion called Wild Wild Guardians in Springs, 50km east of Johannesburg – has al­legedly taken about 140 chil­dren away from their par­ents to “places of safety” – seem­ingly with­out parental con­sent.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion is, ac­cord­ing to the Gaut­eng de­part­ment of so­cial de­vel­op­ment, not reg­is­tered as a child-pro­tec­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion and not “al­lowed to move chil­dren”.

Though Harber claims that he has been “sav­ing the chil­dren from their drug-ad­dicted par­ents”, some Springs res­i­dents and par­ents ac­cuse him of al­legedly get­ting as many chil­dren as he can in or­der “to rake in fos­ter-care grants and pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor do­na­tions”.

Some res­i­dents have called for in­ter­ven­tion by the po­lice and the me­dia in a bid to help women such as Meis Breezke (40), who lost her two chil­dren with­out a proper court process.

The Hawks in Gaut­eng have con­firmed to City Press that they are in­ves­ti­gat­ing hu­man traf­fick­ing al­le­ga­tions against Harber, but no one has been ar­rested yet.

“The in­ves­ti­ga­tion team will be sub­mit­ting the reg­is­tered en­quiry to the Na­tional Pros­e­cu­tion Au­thor­ity for a de­ci­sion,” said Gaut­eng Hawks spokesper­son, Cap­tain Ndi­vhuwo Mu­lamu.

Ac­tivists claim that Harber is traf­fick­ing chil­dren to sus­tain his “wealthy” life­style.

How­ever, Harber rub­bished the crit­i­cism, say­ing he had ob­tained a gag­ging or­der against those “talk­ing ill” of him in the me­dia, in­clud­ing some par­ents be­moan­ing the loss of their chil­dren.

Harber said: “Ev­ery­thing is done through the court. There’s a court in­ter­dict against these peo­ple to keep their mouths shut ... they’re drug ad­dicts. I don’t know what they’re try­ing to do.

“They’re a bad crowd. Ac­tu­ally, [this mat­ter has] got noth­ing to do with [the me­dia].

“The court doc­u­ments of these chil­dren are pri­vate doc­u­ments. You know what? I’m gatvol of this. Ev­ery week I must ex­plain the same f*kken story. I’m get­ting f*kken tired. They are drug ad­dicts, abus­ing their kids.”

Harber de­nied he was mak­ing any money from his place of safety. “A place of safety [gets] R17 per day per child. I don’t get any money from Sassa [SA So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency], even though I’m al­lowed to get that money. What do you do for a child with R17 per day?”

Gaut­eng so­cial de­vel­op­ment spokesper­son Mbangwa Xaba said the de­part­ment was work­ing with the Hawks in their in­ves­ti­ga­tion to en­sure a suc­cess­ful pros­e­cu­tion.

“We are in con­tact with the de­part­ment of jus­tice in the area about al­le­ga­tions of the in­volve­ment of one of their pre­sid­ing of­fi­cers [mag­is­trate] as an ac­com­plice. We can’t di­vulge de­tails about any child taken away from par­ents out­side the pro­vi­sions of the law,” he said.

“We can, how­ever, con­firm that it is not a reg­is­tered child-pro­tec­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion and there­fore wouldn’t have been al­lowed to move chil­dren. The de­part­ment does not have any di­rect re­la­tion­ship with it.”

Xaba, how­ever, ad­mit­ted that the de­part­ment had, through the court, and in com­pli­ance with the Chil­dren’s Act, placed three chil­dren in the care of Harber and his wife.

“Those chil­dren are mon­i­tored. The re­ports by so­cial work­ers con­firm that the con­di­tions un­der which the chil­dren are liv­ing are con­ducive. The last re­port is dated the May 4 2017, where the or­der of one child was ex­tended,” he said.

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